Comment: Sheffield United chase a milestone - plus the two areas which must change fast if they are to stay in the Premier League

A SMALL but significant milestone in Sheffield United’s season is tantalisingly in view.

Should they avoid defeat against Bournemouth in a Premier League six-pointer this coming weekend - and win the game, better still - they would be able to look back on going unbeaten in a calendar month in the top-flight.

Granted, it would only constitute three games, but given what went on before November, it would carry psychological meaning.

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Paul Heckingbottom’s side have done it undeniably tough so far in 2023-24, but the heart is still beating.

After digging deep to chisel out a gutsy draw last time out at Brighton - and take something tangible on their travels for the first time this season - their mood is likely to have been further improved by news of a swingeing ten-point deduction for Everton for breaching financial rules.

As a consequence, Everton now find themselves in the drop zone along with United, who are just one point behind the side currently out of the bottom three in Luton Town - after 12 games of the current campaign.

Heckingbottom’s side host the Hatters in a game of huge consequence at Bramall Lane on Boxing Day. Another match of seismic importance comes along at the start of December when the Blades visit Burnley, the side currently propping up the table, on December 2.

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For further context, after 12 games of their last season at this level in 2020-21, the South Yorkshire outfit had taken just a solitary point and were eight points behind the side just outside of the relegation positions, coincidentally the Clarets, at that same juncture in December 2020.

Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom. Picture: Michael Regan/Getty Images.Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom. Picture: Michael Regan/Getty Images.
Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom. Picture: Michael Regan/Getty Images.

Before thinking about Burnley in the present, United are attempting to significantly cut the gap between themselves, on five points and fifth-from-bottom Bournemouth (nine points).

There is hope for the Blades. But if they are to get themselves away from trouble, they must ameliorate some troubling traits which have flared up all too often so far in 23-24.

They hold the unwanted distinction of being the only Premier League club who are yet to score in the opening half hour of a league game so far this term.

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It’s the worst record across the top four divisions, let alone the top-flight.

They are also yet to find the net in the first half of an away league game this season.

While starting games slowly has proved to be a bugbear, the way they have finished matches - with events in the dramatic victory over Wolves proving to be an honourable exception in isolation earlier this month - had proved another story in their season.

In the final quarter of league matches, the Blades have shipped in 11 goals - the worst record in the division - while managing to score on just two occasions.

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It has cost them a priceless total of seven points into the bargain.

Two stoppage-time goals from Spurs in mid-September saw United snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

They were also on course for precious points against Nottingham Forest, Manchester City, Manchester United and Fulham, only to concede costly goals in the final quarter.

Sorting out those grating tendencies will truly turn the tide of things.